Cape Town - As the national general elections draw closer, it remains unclear whether the effort political parties are putting into social media marketing will make a difference.
"Parties have definitely accelerated their social media use in the election period. Although whether or not this translates into influence on voting patterns is unclear," social media consultant for Afrosocialmedia Samantha Fleming
The Democratic Alliance was an early adopter of social media in its political messaging; the ruling African National Congress has jumped on the channel, particularly as it looks to win in the Western Cape.
On Twitter, the DA has around 73 000 followers, but that is dwarfed by the ANC at 112 000. Newcomer AgangSA has 44 900 followers, but has not shied away from taking shots at political rivals.
"You don't owe it to Mandela to keep voting for ANC. You owe it to yourself and future generations to #VoteAgangSAInstead #Future," the party recently tweeted.Personalities
Despite the fact that the Economic Freedom Fighters party has only around 41 000 followers, party leader Julius Malema is one of the most popular South Africans with 438 000 followers.
"I do find it interesting that Malema's Twitter account has over 400 000 followers, while ANC only just over 100 000. Are we to assume that there are more Malema than ANC followers on Twitter? Or that disillusionment with the ruling party is forcing people to consider other options?" said Fleming.
On Facebook, the DA has been racking up likes - more than doubling its tally in three months to 85 541, while the ANC tails it at 62 017. AgangSA has 35 305, the EFF 7 277, and Cope 2 576 likes.
For comparison, News24 has 310 899 likes on Facebook.
Fleming said that political parties in SA have not yet learnt to exploit social media as a channel to engage voters.
"The kind of political debates seen on SA social media are not very nuanced. Political parties still tend to use platforms as a 'push mechanism' for talking about how marvellous they are, rather than engaging in substantive debate about different policies."
The DA's Facebook page has an "Ask Helen" section where people can question party leader Helen Zille about the manifesto.
By contrast, the ANC page
on Facebook does not have unique branding and features Mosiuoa Lekota - the president of opposition party Cope, which itself has only 1 773 likes on the social network. The MyANC
Facebook page has 121 000 likes.
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